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Eighteen months ago, we won a prestigious grant from Sightsavers, a major UK based organization. Of 477 proposals for its Innovation Fund, ours was one of only 13 selected.

The idea we had was to provide community-based followup care for children with developmental disabilities whom we had assessed at Gubbara. Our goal was to empower parents to monitor their own kids’ progress.

Tall order!

And then we went and added a few additional goals, just to keep ourselves on our toes: we wanted to train ASHAs to identify and refer children they suspected of having or being at risk for a disability. And we wanted parents to keep tabs on them.

Child with autism, surrounded by loving family and professionals

The orders got taller and taller.

We made lots of mistakes along the way, but we thought about why they had happened and what we could do differently the next time. We learned a lot.

And last week, as the pilot ended, we got the chance to reflect on the whole experience with two evaluators from Sightsavers.

British woman and blind Indian man sit at desks, looking up at two Foundation staff

It was an intense, rigorous process with more questions than answers – just as it should be. We are dealing with huge, important things here: families, children’s development, parents’ empowerment, people’s lives. None of them suggest easy, straightforward solutions. Poverty, distances, too few professionals and too many competing interests complicate the story further.

But asking the questions is the first step to finding the answers. Getting children with developmental disabilities the supportive services they need and deserve is as high a priority as there is.

In fact, it’s the only reason we are here. 

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